10 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing an Email
Emails. A magnificent invention that enables us to connect with our friends, family, colleagues and people who are trying to sell us magical weight loss pills. A wonderful tool which helps us receive pizza delivery confirmation messages alongside chain letters sent by our not so close family members. With the rise of Facebook and other social media channels, a big chunk of the “fluff” messages we send and receive has moved to other platforms, thus leaving emails to be the modern days homing pigeons of one’s more serious issues.
The fact that we use our emails for work related matters and other occasions that require messages with more than three emojis and a GIF of a yelling goat, turns each mistake we might make into a critical one. For that reason, we thought it’s important to share our list of the top 10 email mistakes you simply MUST avoid. Keep this list in mind while writing your next online letter, and producing a mistake free email will be as easy as learning how to create a website.
The “Coming to school with no pants dream” of email mistakes. Extremely common, always embarrassing and when measured on our negative scale of errors, this one lacks any unique aspect. Fortunately for all us, many email services have implemented a built-in forgotten attachment reminder, that scans your text for phrases like “I’ve attached,” “attached file,” etc. If an email that has one of these phrases is about to be sent without an attachment, a pop-up message will appear, asking you to confirm that your decision is final. But don’t just trust this algorithm to do your dirty work. Start attaching your files before writing the message, put a post-it note on the screen with the word “Attachment!” or get a tattoo of a paper clip on your palm – whatever works for you. Oh, and don’t try to recover with a silly, worn out joke when sending the second, file carrying email.
Sending to the wrong recipient
The ol’ switcheroo. Nothing stirs the office pot better than an email sent to the wrong address. This kind of mistake holds the widest spectrum of outcomes, from a bridge over troubled water to a highway to hell. While lucky ones might send the “Staples & Markers – Challenges and Opportunities” summary that they just finished writing to the wrong colleague, others may have to face to consequences of sending their short story, “Why I Hate Jared and Despise Everything He Stands For,” to Jared himself. Asking yourself how you can dodge this bullet? Read your recipients list to yourself carefully and consider adding an “Undo Send” feature, if available in your email service.
Choosing a bad subject line
First thing first, some emails (usually job applications) require a specific subject line – when you’re asked to write the name of the position you’re applying to in the subject, don’t try any funny business. Furthermore, even when you can choose your subject line freely, keep it related to the content of the email, providing a clear understanding of what’s about to come in the text. If you’re able to phrase it in a memorable way that will push the recipient to open the email – even better. “Let’s… skyrocket (!) our Department “, “SO AS I WAS SAYING TO YOU THIS MORNING…” and “Daily News – Stats Update” are all good examples of a bad subject line. Don’t pour a bucket of emojis, don’t yell at the recipient and don’t make it too boring.
Using the wrong writing tone
Exactly like in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, avoiding this one is all about finding the middle ground. Replying to a message sent by a friendly colleague that throws different types of food at you once a week in a formal tone, is just weird. On the other hand, answering your boss’s boss with an “okay m8” message, probably won’t land you the desired promotion. Not sure of the proper way to write to superiors, colleagues and customers? Take a sneak peak at long emails threads sent to you and try to learn the best attitude to adopt. Additionally, you can just ask colleagues you trust and appreciate for their opinion about your text.
Sending at a bad time
Email timing is an entire philosophy. Some believe that sending an email very early or few hours after a day’s end will highlight how hard they work. Others try to schedule theirs after their boss’s lunch or according to many other weird factors which most of us won’t think to take in consideration. The important lesson here is not to overdo your act – don’t become the person that everybody knows is trying to send the earliest or latest message each day. It’s too obvious. More importantly, don’t send them at 11:45 pm or at 05:30 am. Few will appreciate the notification sound on their phone during these hours and on top of that, the emails might get buried by the time the recipient will open them in the morning.
Replying to all (all the time)
Just got an email from the CEO of your company, congratulating all the employees for the new year? Feeling the urge to thank him? The preferable move is to not engage, but in case you insist on replying, do not choose “reply to all.” An email sent to the entire company is an extreme example, but even if fewer people are in the loop, replying to an email thread with many recipients is a big no-no. Unless there’s a clear need for everyone involved in the content you’re about to send, please spare your colleagues with a banal “Thank you!,”“Got it!” or “Amazing!” These kinds of messages normally push more people to respond and create a monstrous, Facebook styled chain of comments.
Neglecting your signature
Even if the new employees at your company are taught that you’re Stan “The Man” or Sharon “The Cyclone,” you should bear in mind that your email will end up on a screen of someone that has no idea who you are. Email signatures, especially business email signatures, usually include your full name, job title, contact information and if relevant – links to a personal website or any other social media profile page. Don’t know how to set up your own signature? Google “How to create a signature” with the name of your email service and the answers will spring like mushrooms after the rain.
Working with too many (bad) Fonts
Using a regular, common font is pretty basic when formulating an email. There’s no need to try and be that special one that uses Brush Script, Papyrus or even the well known Serif (which is considered more difficult to read on screens than its sibling Sans Serif) You probably know that going crazy with different fonts and colors isn’t the best way to create a good impression. However, many experienced email senders fail to notice a more sneaky culprit. While copying text from other sources, the newly pasted text could bring some new “designing styles;”a slightly bigger font size, a brighter color, an almost transparent highlight in the background. This gets worse when the new styling stays for the rest of the text written after the copied part. In order to secure a professional look, choose your style and make sure you stick with it.
Starting with To Whom It May Concern
It’s difficult to find many differences between opening an email with this greeting and throwing a water balloon from your window without looking. As long as you’re not sending a complaint to a giant food chain, this kind of an opening emphasizes how little you invested in finding out who’s the address of the email. Unless they’ll notice a law firm logo above the text, most recipients will quickly jump to the next email in their inbox.
Failing to review
Clicking “Send” on an email you perfected for 3 days is a special moment. A moment as anticipated as a new season of “Game of Thrones.” Don’t let the “Finished Email Celebrations” blur your judgment and turn you into one of those runners who start celebrating their victory few steps before the finish line, and eventually stumble and lose. From the first word you write, make sure to follow the orders given to you by the built in spell checker, Grammarly browser extension or any other spell checker you prefer. Additionally, take a minute or two to go through the whole thing, to remove any typing error, grammar mistakes and any rewriting residue. Afterward, see if there’s a way you could “cut out the fat” from your text – people hate long emails. And if you consulted with friends and colleagues, don’t leave the “So this is my final version, what do you think?” at the top of the text.
By Chen Attias